Friday, October 23, 2015

Pick a Carb! Any Carb!

There's really no other way to put it other than saying that the first month of my low carb journey was just very, very difficult. I am someone who adores food. From the grocery shopping to the cooking, to eating out and finding fun, new restaurants, I love it all. And I'm not picky about my food in the slightest. Until bread and potatoes were taken out of my repertoire and I magically became a little pickier about what went on my plate. Cauliflower mash: yes! Steamed asparagus: no. So, you can imagine the thoughts going through my head during my first trip to the grocery store. I'm fairly certain I came home and immediately told Ben that I felt like I had to re-learn how to grocery shop because I had no idea what I was doing. I went to the store with my little list of the most basic foods that I knew I could eat and walked around the perimeter of the store and it was pretty much an out of body experience for me. I would pick up something, stare at the label, subtract the fiber from the carbohydrates and put the item down. And again. And again. And again. All of this thinking and math? Not my thing. Never has been. But eventually, after many trips & realizing that I cannot will a box of Little Debbie's to magically have zero carbs on the nutrition label, it all started to make sense. 

The first week we started on our program, my in-laws came to visit and we had been planning to take them to Austin for the weekend long before eating 20 grams of carbohydrates a day was ever a thought in my pretty little head. I mean, people don't go to Austin to be on a diet and to not be able to enjoy the kolaches in West, the incredible donuts in Round Rock, the food trucks, the pizza on South Congress and just the incredible food scene that Austin offers. Well, at least not MY people.

So there I was, 5 days into the program when we piled into one car and headed out of town. I am happy to say that we stayed on track that first weekend and still enjoyed some of our favorite foods- just in a totally different way. Instead of having barbecue with a bunch of sugary sauce slathered on top, I ate it dry. Instead of fries, I had vegetables. And instead of making my way to any and all food trucks in the parking lot behind the UT Co-Op, I searched and searched for one with a salad option. So, in case you find yourself on a vacation five days after committing to a low carb diet, it can most certainly be done! It's just painful. 

About a month after that trip, I had finally somewhat gotten into a groove with my eating plan. It seemed that I had gotten over the hump of craving every kind of potato known to man... just in time for a long weekend in San Antonio with my husband, mom and aunt. We all piled into the car and drove down I-35 for hours and I was so happy that I had come prepared this time. My husband and I packed a cooler of waters and low carb snacks that we could nibble on while on the road. We had it all: eggs, cheese and protein powder- the 3 staples of my first month right there. And wouldn't you know that when it came down to it, I wanted none of it. I couldn't eat another egg. If I saw another cheese stick, I feared throwing it out the window. The only thing that seemed to help me choke down another low-carb snack was to TALK about food. It was strangely therapeutic for me and probably fairly awkward and hilarious for everyone else. But all I wanted was to take a trip down memory lane and carry on about Carbs Past. The ones we loved, the ones that aren't worth it and the ones we would kill for in that exact moment. And wouldn't you know, a fun little road trip game to pass the time was born right then and there. I turned to my mom and aunt in the backseat and said, "PICK A CARB! ANY CARB!" And we went around the car upon my command and talked about the one carb they would pick if they could have just one. And then we would discuss. 

Let me tell you, we had a hilarious time going around the car sharing our one item and where they would get it, how it was prepared (the more detail, the better. Obviously..) and if I didn't think it was a "worthy" carb, I would ask them why they chose it and if they wanted to take a second go at it. It was completely sick and twisted and if my poor aunt didn't know yet how deeply I missed my carbs, I am fairly certain she learned on that car ride down. I'm not going to say that it's normal. And I'm not going to suggest you play it while you're hungry with only eggs and cheese sticks on hand. But in a sad, weird, crazy way, if I couldn't eat it, talking about it is what got me through the darkest little moments of grieving the foods I used to eat during that time. 

Another thing that got me through those moments? Cauliflower. I remember coming to my parent's house after a grueling workout the first or second week I was on the program and I sat at the kitchen table starving and sad because I missed the food that used to give me so much comfort. All of a sudden, I had to deal with feeling upset or stressed or bored instead of just eating those feelings. My mom listened and did what any other mom would do- she cooked. In the middle of my tears, a plate with a little steak, salad and this out of this world cauliflower mash landed in front of me. And right then and there, I fell in love with cauliflower. How one vegetable can transform itself into pizza crust, mashed potatoes, rice and grits is totally beyond me. 

A few months later, I came across this delicious Twice Baked Cauliflower Casserole from Keto Karma. And it's been a staple in our monthly dinner rotation ever since. Suzanne's story is truly incredible and has inspired me throughout my health journey and this dish is easily one of our favorites. We have it at least twice a month. This is definitely going to be our mashed potato substitute for Thanksgiving. It's THAT good. 


Twice Baked Cauliflower Casserole from Keto Karma 

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yield: Makes 9 servings
Calories per serving: 183
Fat per serving: 14g
Carbs per serving: 7g (5 net carbs)
Protein per serving: 9g
Ingredients
  • 1 large head cauliflower 
  • 4 oz. full fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup full fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup minced green onions
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 cup full fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Fry 6 pieces of bacon. (Tip: You can use bacon bits if you're in a hurry!)
  2. Cut out stem and core from cauliflower, and chop into small pieces.
  3. Cook cauliflower in a large pot of boiling salted water until cauliflower is tender.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
  5. In a large mixing bowl add cream cheese, sour cream, green onions, Parmesan cheese and 4 pieces of chopped fully cooked bacon.
  6. Drain cauliflower well, then pour over top of the ingredients in large mixing bowl.
  7. Mash with potato masher/mixing whisk, until the consistency is to your liking.
  8. Spread evenly in a medium-sized (8x8) glass casserole dish.
  9. Top with cheddar cheese and two pieces of chopped bacon. Bake 15-20 minutes.
  10. Enjoy!
I took some photos of how I prepared it for our dinner tonight. It was divine as always! 

 All the makings of perfection! I used chopped bacon we had on hand 


 I boiled the cauliflower for 15 minutes. The last thing you want is chunky cauliflower. The longer you cook it, the better! 


 Make sure to drain all of the liquid 


This time, I added 1/2 a cup of the cheddar cheese in the mixture to change things up


Top with remaining cheddar cheese & bacon and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes until it's smooth, warm, bubbly, cheesy heaven 
How amazing does this look?! 
Ben and I had this last night for dinner alongside caramelized chicken burgers and Brussels sprouts and it did not disappoint! Because it never does. Another reason to love this dish? It keeps incredibly well in the fridge and is perfect for lunches and/or dinners the following few days. 
Make this soon, friends! I know you will love it.
Happy Friday! 


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