One of the biggest struggles people have with sticking with an eating plan is the effort it takes to cook meals. In her book, Easy Keto Dinners, Carolyn Ketchum gives us some great tips and recipes to make eating ketogenic much easier.
Allan (03:42): Caroline, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Carolyn (03:45): Thank you. Allan. How are you?
Allan (03:46): I'm doing very, very well. Your book is Easy Keto Dinners. This is going to be really cool because it's hard to be prepared. It's hard to always be cooking and even though we can do certain things like batch cooking, or just keep things very simple, like a steak and Broccoli. Some nights it is a struggle. You've put together a cookbook that makes some of our favorite meals available to us in a fairly easy way. Can you explain the concept of easy for us a little bit?
Carolyn (04:29): Yeah. It's interesting. A lot of people ask, does this mean everything's under 30 minutes and I can make it quickly? Well, yes and no. There are plenty of easy fast recipes in the book and then there are plenty of easy, slow recipes in the book because sometimes if you have a 30 minute meal, that means that you're staying ending. They're chopping and cooking and sorting and doing everything, you know, standing there for 30 minutes actually working. And then there's recipes where it takes you 10 minutes of prep time and you throw everything in a pot or a slow cooker and you walk away and you know, a couple, three or four hours or up to eight hours and then it's done, but you're not actually cooking the whole time. So my concept of easy is just, it's really the minimal prep time and the minimal work and the minimal sort of having to create everything yourself.
Allan (05:17): Yeah. Some of the recipes are so simple and they are very quick. Some of these you'll have done in almost no time. Others, you are going to spend a little time on the prep and then you're setting it free and you can go about your life. You're not right there. It's a good mix of both. Do you mind if we take a step back a little bit and talk about why you're writing keto cookbooks?
Carolyn (05:51): Well, yes. I have not ever had weight to lose. That's lucky me. A lot of people come to keto for weight loss. But I had gestational diabetes at ease with my third child and after she was born it seemed to go away. All my blood tests seem to be saying I was good to go. I kept testing every so often. I started to see the numbers creep back up and I got concerned. I went to my doctor and we agreed that I had prediabetes and needed to do something about it. I did my research. Very few people in the medical world are actually suggesting low carb, although it's becoming more and more common. Thank goodness. I decided after doing some research and having known when I had gestational diabetes how much work it took to keep my blood sugar under control when I was on a standard American diet. I just knew something had to change. So I just started cooking and baking low carb.
Allan (06:58): Even though I eat keto most of the year. That's not something that I really try to push on anybody else because I don't want to be that guy. It's funny. Not Funny. It's actually kind of sad. My sister and I were having a conversation this morning about her having the same issue. She had gestational diabetes and then after her third child, she now has to be very careful. She'll notice her blood sugar going way, way up. I don't think she's as diligent at checking it and managing it and doing those things. At least this week when I'm feeding her, she's gonna be eating low carb
Carolyn (07:40): Good. And maybe she'll see. I think the thing for me and the reason I write cookbooks and write a blog is I've fallen in love with this lifestyle, but it took awhile. When I decided I had to go low carb and gluten-free. I basically sat on my kitchen floor and cried because I'd always been a passionate baker and I thought that was over for me. I've discovered it's not, which is fabulous. I've discovered there are so many wonderful ways to cook and eat and be keto. I think people are very much afraid of it and I understand why. Because I'm going to have to give up all my favorites, but you're not going to have to. You're just going to have to make them in a very different way. And sometimes you do have to change your taste, but it does happen. And then you start to love it. Why would I ever do anything else?
Allan (08:27): My wife was getting into it. She was doing the shopping on Saturday. I took a picture of your cookbook, the ingredients list, and I told her to get these things. One of the recipes I sent her was for the cheesy biscuits that I planned to make for breakfast this morning. When I went up in the pantry, started looking around like, there's no coconut flour. She didn't get it. She thought we had some. No. I said, and you don't get any cheesy biscuits. No cheesy biscuits for you. But I will probably go shopping this afternoon and buy some coconut flour so she can have cheesy biscuits tomorrow.
As you get into these things and you start learning more and more about the kind of recipes and stuff that's out there, you do realize there are adaptations. It's not as convenient as going to the grocery store. And the freezer section and there being a whole keto section. Paleo kind of took off and now there's that. They advertise that they're Paleo dishes and that's wonderful. There aren't that many low carb stuff convenience foods. There are diabetic sections and stuff where they'll have the candies and the other stuff. But now we're using real whole food and prepping it ourselves. This is really cool because you've, you've made it really easy.
Can you give us some tips? For me, it's always been batch cooking. That way you're getting a lot of value out of the amount of time you're investing. I could see taking some of these recipes, adapting them times four, times five and putting those away. Can you kind of give us some of your tips on how to have an efficient and effective kitchen?
Carolyn (10:31): Yeah, I have a lot of tips. One of the things is you say batch cooking and I'm just not good at that. I never have been. I know it's a great way to do things and if I'm making something like Carnitas or pulled pork or that kind of thing, it always ends up being a whole bunch and then we put some in the freezer. That's great. It's just never been my style. Part of the reason is that I like a lot of variety. I don't want to have to eat the same thing within two days of each other. There are not a lot of keto convenience foods out there, but it's growing. But I would say be careful there because a lot of people are calling things keto and they have a lot of junk in them.
Be careful if you purchase some of those things. But one of the things for me is these days grocery stores are making things really easy on us so you don't have to make all your own bone broth. Maybe it's not quite the same. Maybe it's not quite as nutritious. But buying, Pacific Foods bone broth or a Whole Foods brand bone broth is going to save you a lot of time and energy. Things like we were talking about cauliflower rice earlier. The grocery stores are now putting out rice cauliflower, whether it's in the fresh section or the freezer section. I make a lot of my own tomato sauce. But then there are times when I've blown through my stash from the summer. I go to the store and I check the labels to find the lowest carb one that I can.
So one of the things that I did in this book was a resource guide for store-bought options. You don't have to reinvent the wheel and make everything yourself. I think that that saves you a lot of time. Try prepping ahead sometimes if you know you're going to be having a busy week prepping things ahead, like cutting things up or you were saying cauliflower, you do sometimes just sort of sit there in front of the TV and rice your cauliflower. Sure. Why not? That's a great idea. And one of my favorite tips though is rotisserie chicken. Almost every grocery store has a rotisserie chicken section. You grab one and you can make easily two to three meals out of that. Or you can just cook your own chicken ahead and have it shredded and in the freezer and then you pop it into a recipe.
Allan (13:01): When I say batch cooking, it's not always dishes. I'm going to grill, you know, a lot of chicken quarters because I'm out on the grill cooking steak and then I'll grill a bunch of chicken. I'm doubling up on my time. And then another, another thing is if I, if I know I'm going to be making a crockpot meal that day when I get back from the grocery store or the farmer's market, I've got all fresh vegetables and fresh meat and as I'm unpacking, I'm washing, cutting and putting it in a crockpot rather than putting it in the refrigerator. So, by the time I finish unpacking my groceries, I've already got the meal started.
Carolyn (13:56): I think that's fabulous. If you have an instant pot you can do some of that stuff too. That's always fun. I'm getting used to mine and trying to do more recipes with it. When you talk about going to the farmer's market or the grocery store, you have to have a stocked pantry. I mean if your cupboard's bare and you come home from work and there's nothing to make, then even my recipes won't help you. You have to pick a day of the week where you go and you have your list of what I might probably make this week. It can change a little as you go and you have to stock things. Keeping some proteins in your freezer like ground beef and chicken thighs. I'm, I'm a fan of chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts personally. I think they have more flavor. Just having them on hand, and even if you forget to take them out of the freezer, there are ways to quick thaw them. There is a section on that in the book with tips like that to save you some time.
Allan (14:57): Yeah. It's really about having it all stocked. In the future, I will have coconut flour on hand to make those cheesy biscuits. I didn't have it and like you said, if you're missing that one ingredient, then you're now looking for option number two, which is probably the same thing you ate yesterday, that the eggs and bacon or the eggs and sausage. But that's unsatisfying when you want to change things up a little bit. Um, and you said yourself, you, you don't like to eat the same thing, so you like to change things up.
One of the things I like about the Easy Keto Dinners cookbook it has a lot of variety in flavors. Some of them are very interesting flavors and others I know have particular health benefits. Can you talk a little bit about what spices you're using in here, some of the reasons why you're using them, either from a pairing of flavors or a health benefits?
Carolyn (16:03): Well, I have a lovely large spice drawer that I keep pretty much totally stocked at all times. Another question that I get from people is, do these recipes have five ingredients or less? And I'm like, well, maybe if you don't count the spices, because I think, again, people confuse easy with fewer things and if you have a good spice cabinet, you've got tons of things in there to help flavor your foods. I like spicy stuff.
One of my favorite recipes in the book is the one pot jerk chicken and rice because I really love those jerk flavors. I faked it in this one because a real jerk seasoning a has brown sugar. We're not going to do that. It also has scotch bonnet peppers, which are hard to find and at any time of year. So I made it spicy without the Scotch bonnets. It's a dry rub too, whereas a real jerk seasoning mix would be sort of a wet paste. You can fake flavors and get really close to the real thing.
There's tons of health benefits to so many spices. I know turmeric fights inflammation, but you have to eat a lot of it to do that. It's flavor that gives us a sense of safety. So along with the fat from the keto diet, we need flavor for us to be like, wow, now I'm full. I don't need anymore. And I think knowing when we're full is part is one of the benefits of the keto diet. Knowing when we're satiated and stopping.
Allan (17:55): Yeah. And I think that's another thing cooking, is you can be proud. I don't mean this in a bad way, but if you can take pride in the fact that you prepared a really good dish, even if it was easy, the fact that it tastes good and you really are enjoying it, you're probably going to slow down. You're going to make eating a lot more mindful, right? Which is going to make everybody's life better.
Carolyn (18:22): I learned that early in college. I remember being in my dorm and the food was so bad that everybody would eat a meal but they wouldn't feel full or they wouldn't feel satiated and they'd head to the convenience store afterwards and get chips and chocolate bars. I remember doing that too. And feeling like, wow, you know, food needs to have an impact on your taste buds for you to feel satiated.
Allan (18:45): Yeah. You've got things in here like the chicken Parmesan casserole, spicy pork and cabbage stir-fry. So there's, there's variety and you've organized it based on the protein source a throughout the book. Then you have a little guide at the back that's really cool because if you're wanting to manager your prep time, which ones are fast, which ones are slow. It has a food allergy and sensitivity guide as well. It is great to have this little guide where you broke down to make it even easier to know what you're doing.
Carolyn (19:19): I made sure that 50 percent, it's a little more than 50 percent of the book is dairy free or can be made dairy free. And there aren't a lot of recipes with nuts in them. So if you're a nut allergy person then you're good to go with most of these recipes. I think that that's important too because somebody needs to know at a glance whether something's going to have something that they're intolerant to
Allan: (19:44): And you flag those. So it's very easy for us to go through and know which ones would impact us.
Then the other thing is, because a lot of a lot of recipe books don't do this, you actually have the breakdown of the macros. I think is very important for someone when they're first coming on to keto. They're trying to get their fat intake up to a certain level and keep their carbs low. You've put that together in a way where I know this is going to put me in the right macro profile for the day. I'm maintaining my ketosis.
Carolyn (20:24): I think everybody needs that. I calculate them all myself on a program that I have downloaded on my computer. It's a paid program. So it's not like My Fitness Pal. My Fitness Pal has tons of errors because it's user inputted data. But even my paid software will have errors since it pulls from the USDA web database. The problem is they are using averages. My chicken thighs weren't as big as the average chicken thigh. I get a lot of pasture raised chicken. My chicken thighs are not that big because they were not plumped up by all the grains. I had to do some hand calculating, which was exhausting.
Allan (21:11): I built a spreadsheet when I first started going keto. When I would cook a Chili it would be without the beans. I would use about a third, maybe a half of the tomatoes I would have used otherwise to cut back a little bit. And I got a lot more meat in there and when I browned it I put all the fat back in there and even put some more fat in there. And so now based on everything I added, I'm like, I've got the calorie counts and they've got the macros of all of the ingredients. I added them up and divided to make a serving around 500 calories. How many servings does this make? And man, that spreadsheet was like the banking records for GE,
Carolyn (21:55): I kind of find the math a little fun. And sometimes I would go, whoa, that's way too much protein for this recipe. And I would have to dig and do some research and figure out. Because in my database it will also have, you know, five different chicken thighs in there, based on like whether the bone isn't it or whether the skin is still on or whether it was enhanced (the step where they shoot it up making them look plumper and juicier). I had to find the right one that was more like my chicken breasts. I feel obligated to say that all of those are provided as a courtesy. But if somebody is very, very specific, then they should probably be doing their own calculations because as, like I said, things are pulling from averages and it's very hard to do. And if you're very specific and you weigh everything. I know a lot of people when they first start keto, they're weighing everything they eat. Then they should probably try to calculate it a little bit themselves.
Allan (23:06): Yeah. Once you get comfortable with the way that you're preparing your dishes it actually gets easier and easier. The higher the quality of the food, That's again, that's another reason why I'm such a big proponent of cooking for yourself. You know what you're putting in your body and your family's bodies. The food we eat is health. If we're not doing food right, then we're not taking care of ourselves.
Carolyn (23:43): That's why I say to a lot of people, beware the keto products, because there have been several instances recently where companies have been accused of erroneous nutrition labels. They overstate the amount of carbs. And they'll call themselves keto. I would have rather make that cookie myself than have bought your cookie and possibly put myself out of ketosis having done so. Even when the supermarket has the keto section, which they eventually will, because the tide is turning, I feel like you're going to have to read the label and be smart about it.
Allan (24:23): Yeah, absolutely. So the book is Easy Keto Dinners. If someone wanted to learn more about you, get to your blog or learn more about this book or your other books, where would you like for me to send them?
Carolyn (24:35): All Day I Dream About Food is my blog because I really do dream about food all day and I enjoy doing that. I also have a second cookbook, which is my first cookbook and the Everyday Ketogenic Kitchen, which is a more lengthy cookbook that covers everything from breakfast to dessert. It also has sort of my story a little more and how keto works and things like that. That's a great resource and Easy Keto Dinners is almost like a companion guide. You're adding more dinner recipes to your repertoire.
Allan (25:07): Absolutely. This is going to be episode 318. You could go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/318, and I'll have the links there. Carolyn, thank you so much for being a part of 40 plus fitness.
Carolyn (25:20): Thank you. It was wonderful to talk to you.
Allan (25:29): If you're enjoying the 40+ Fitness Podcast, would you please go out to itunes and leave us a rating and review. Go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/review. That will take you the itunes page and you can leave us a rating and review right there. Thank you.