Keto-tastic Kristmas: Gingerbread House

Sorry, couldn’t resist the aliteration again ūüôā

We also couldn’t resist Dawn’s gingerbread house from www.ketocook.com. We started the recipe yesterday, but then Nora got an unhappy surprise from the vomit elf. Thankfully, she felt better in just a few hours and is fine now. We are still wondering what happened. We have all felt just a bit off the last few days, so maybe it is just a little virus. We also opened a new pint of cream which seemed fine right away, but the second time Nora had some she complained that it tasted bad. It was bitter. We think it was just beginning to sour, so maybe that was the culprit? But Nora has been fine since so all is well today.

It’s also Nora’s half birthday today! She’s 4 1/2! To celebrate, we put a candle in her gingerbread house as the chimney and she ate the roof for breakfast. And in 2 days it will be her 8-month-seizure-free anniversary! So many celebrations!

Nora can’t eat the whole thing because it is far too many carbs and calories. To serve, I pre-weighed the pieces of the house. I made sure each matching piece was the same weight–the 2 roof pieces, the 2 side walls, and the 2 peaked walls. She ate both roof pieces for breakfast, so I knew how much dough went into each piece of cookie, and the amount of frosting needed to get the ratio to 3.5:1. She can eat the rest of the house for snacks today and tomorrow and I will know how to account for it.

I adjusted Dawn’s recipe to decrease the carbs a bit. I substituted hazelnut meal and a bit of flaxseed meal for the almond flour. My gingerbread looks a little more rustic as a result. I also made a triple-batch of dough out of spur of the moment laziness. The recipe called for 20 g of egg, and the egg that I cracked was right on 60 g. It seemed easiest to just triple it instead of holding on to the extra 40 g of egg and finding another use for it. Of course, that bought me more work in the long run, but Nora got more gingerbread!

Because I made more dough, I had more to work with when I rolled it out. I tried to follow Dawn’s general dimensions but mis-measured the walls ¬†and ended up making a bigger house than Dawn’s. If you look at the picture of Nora’s house and make Dawn’s recipe, just know that you won’t have enough dough in a batch to make a house that is this big. I overdid it. As you can see, I weighed the cut pieces of dough before baking them. The chilled dough was sturdy enough to move from scale to cookie sheet and back again. I could also weigh each matching piece and adjust to make them the same weight.

I also made the buttercream frosting recipe for the icing. This was so good! And it used up 23 g of our protein powder making the 4:1 ratio recipe! Yippee! To add some flavor, I made some Celestial Seasonings Gingerbread tea and used that for the 50 g of water called for in the recipe. I also added a packet of Nora’s Cytra-K for it’s sweetness. As you can probably tell, my frosting is not white, but light warm brown. It looks good and it tastes wonderful. If I make the frosting again for other treats, I might use peppermint tea or another flavor in place of the water, depending on the recipe.

The buttercream frosting is also great because it hardens when chilled. I had to keep the frosting around room temperature to work with it, then we put it in the fridge to harden. Works like a dream.

Nora directed the decorating on the gram scale. I calculated that I needed a little more weight in frosting than weight in cookie to make this a 3.5:1 ratio snack. Because I knew the weight of the baked cookies, I knew the total weight that the whole house should be when finished (baked cookies plus weight of required frosting). We could assemble it right on the gram scale, adding the walls and roof as necessary, and adding frosting until we reached the required total weight.

We also cut some mini gingerbread people and trees with the rest of our dough. I made sure that they were all 4 grams of dough so that they could be served without weighing and calculating. Then I frosted them all with 2 g of frosting because that would fit easily on the cookie. They are not at-ratio snacks so we will have to serve with tea and cream.

We have a very full fridge of Keto Kristmas Kookies! And a happy Nora. I told Ted that I am done baking for awhile, and in the next moment I realized that we are out of some of Nora’s other daily baked goods, like fiber rolls and pumpkin bars for breakfast. Sigh. She will be eating gingerbread for breakfast this week. I think I will try to hold off on more baking until I find out if we are getting a stand mixer for Christmas ūüôā

Candy Cane Cookies

What does your kid do when innocently offered sugar? What do you do?

We are lucky that Nora informs people that she has a “special diet.” She doesn’t make a fuss. I make sure we thank them for the gift or offer, give a short explanation and try to re-direct the conversation.

This week, the kids’ swimming teacher gave them 3 candy canes each, of different flavors, wrapped with a ribbon. It was nice of her and she didn’t know about Nora’s diet. There is not reason for her to know the details, they just swim! Nora took the candy canes but said she had a special diet. Anders and I gave the short explanation, which usually is something like “she has epilepsy and can’t have sugar.” To redirect, I suggested that we could use them as decorations on our Christmas tree. The kids thanked her for the present.

Anders really does a good job for a 7 year old, but he can’t help but blurt out, “but I can eat one later, right?” I try to tell him that we will discuss it later, but he can’t help but bring it up repeatedly. Somewhere in there I remembered making candy cane Christmas cookies in the past, and suggested that we could make some for Nora so that she can have a “candy cane” too. Then I was committed.

We had already made the Coconut Cut-Out Cookies from www.ketocook.com into Christmas Cookies, so I knew I already had a recipe. We just had to make the shape.

I made a double batch of the Coconut Cut-Out Cookie recipe and divided it into 2 balls of 101 g each. FYI, this time I increased the coconut oil to 16 g and the butter to 29 g to make it a 3.5:1 ratio for Nora. I also do not add as much no-carb sweetener as called for in the original recipe.

One ball I left in it’s original color and flavor. For the other ball, we added 4 drops of red food coloring and a few drops of peppermint extract, mixing well to get it fully incorporated.

Then I weighed out 8 g balls of each mixture, so that each cookie is made from 16 g of dough. That makes serving them much easier because they are a uniform weight.

If you have older children, they will like to help you shape the cookies. Just like soft playdough, roll each 8 g ball into a long snake shape, about 5 inches. You will have 1 pink string and 1 “white” string. Then carefully twist them around each other and form into a candy cane shape. I found the the dough tended to break a bit, but you can easily keep smushing it back together to get a compact cookie. As you wrap the strings around each other, press together to form a single compact stick of dough.

Forming each one took 2-4 minutes so the dough tended to dry out. Part way through I realized that I should keep the dough moist and put a damp dishcloth over the top of everything, both the formed and un-formed dough.

Nora wasn’t able to do that fine motor work with the precision needed to make a candy cane shape and just wanted to play with it. I let her try to form hers, then we just mashed her dough together into a round pink and white cookie because it was beyond repair. It will still taste the same.

The double-batch of dough with 16 g per cookie made 12 candy cane cookies. Because they were a bit thick, they took 8-10 minutes to bake through. They turned out quite sturdy! a few broke when they were picked up and waved around (4 year olds tend to do that), but they were not crumbly at all. Nora was able to dip hers in tea. I tried the littlest cookie made from leftover dough and it tasted good. I think the coconut flour gives it a bit of a dry texture, even with all of that fat, so it is perfect for dipping. Anders and his friend Henry really really really wanted to try one even though I offered them sugared snickerdoodles, so I let them split one and they liked it too! That’s the ultimate taste test! Also, it signals that food that looks fun is always good to eat.

With less than a week left until Christmas, I’m going to dole these out slowly so that I don’t have to make them again until next year. They were fun, but time consuming. Make it a fun holiday activity with your keto kid and enjoy the smiles.

Mexican Chocolate Protein Cupcakes

Holiday goodie #4: Mexican Chocolate Protein Cupcakes! The texture of these cupcakes is near perfect for a gluten-free, low-carb cupcake. I am proud that I seem to have nailed a recipe on the first try. I was due for some good luck.

Mexican Chocolate Protein Muffin and Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting. Click on the picture for a larger view to see details and the texture of the open cupcake.

This was inspired when Nora was invited to a birthday party for her friend Fiona that would feature chocolate cake and pink frosting. I have been reluctant to make any chocolate baked goods for Nora because one of her breakthrough seizures early in the diet therapy came after I made her MAD-approved brownies. She has since been having cocoa periodically with no problems: occasionally a touch of cocoa in her cream to make her hot chocolate and 4 g of 85% dark chocolate in her Chocolate Chip Keto Ice Cream Pops. I was careful in making these cupcakes not to give her any more cocoa than she has already been having in other treats. I know it’s likely superstition at this point, but I have no interest in tempting any breakthrough seizures.

To round out the flavor profile, I added cinnamon in equal parts with the cocoa powder. Hence, the Mexican chocolate flavor and a nice warm holiday ambiance.

And the protein? That was partly to balance the carbs and proteins in this snack to make it more keto-diet friendly, partly to use the 2 pounds (that’s ~900 g) of whey protein isolate in my pantry. 5. Grams. At. A. Time.

I know your next question: “Why in the blazes do you have 2 pounds of whey protein isolate in your pantry?” I think the answer is obvious, but I will indulge you: I aspire to make Nora into a body builder. Ok, you got me, that’s not really the reason. I aspire to be a body builder. In another lifetime.

Now for the truth. When we started Nora on the MAD diet 1 year ago, the lower ratio meant a much higher protein requirement each day. We felt like we were stuffing her full of protein constantly, so I looked for ways to replace carbs with protein wherever possible. I also read on gluten-free blogs that whey protein produced superior baked goods, so I wanted to experiment with recipes. The only whey protein isolate in town that was free of added sweeteners or flavors came in a 2 pound tub at Stoker’s VitaWorld (that’s right, it’s as groovy as it sounds). As Nora moved to the higher ratio keto diet, she needed much less protein and more fat. Actually, she was happier and able to eat about the same number of calories on a higher ratio when we replaced protein with fat. Everyone was happier and closer to seizure-freedom.

But I was left with almost 2 pounds of whey protein! The recipes I made back then were not clear winners because they didn’t stay with us. I should find some of them and try again. In the meantime, I’m happy that I was able to incorporate a bit of it into these cupcakes. Slowly but surely I will use it. It’s good through November 2013. One more year on the diet, one more year to use the whey protein.

My starting point for this recipe was the Basic Chocolate Cake recipe at www.ketocook.com, but I wasn’t comfortable with it because of the high cocoa content. As you can see I made some substantial changes to create this recipe, but followed the general proportions of dry to wet ingredients. I frosted them with my Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting, made at a slightly higher ratio than I’ve used before, which is posted below as well. To achieve a 3.5:1 ratio, I used 1 cupcake and 20 g of frosting. Varying the amount of frosting will achieve different ratios.

As always, use this as a starting point for your own recipes and re-calculate using your exact ingredients.

Mexican Chocolate Protein Cupcake. Ratio is 2.3:1. Nutrition per 47 g cupcake (whole recipe makes 3 of these). Nutrition analysis by www.caloriecount.com

Mexican Chocolate Protein Cupcakes
10 g Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coconut Flour
5 g Ultimate Nutrition whey protein powder
3 g Rapunzel Organic Cocoa Powder
3 g cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1 g baking soda
28 g Strauss European style butter, melted
20 g Thai Kitchen Premium Coconut Milk
20 g Organic Valley Heavy Whipping Cream
50 g egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients well. If you want your cupcakes more chocolatey, you can certainly add more cocoa powder, up to 5 to 6 grams will probably be good. I also added about 1 gram of Sweet Leaf Stevia Sweetener, and you can add sweetener of your choice. Remember to re-calculate with your ingredients and measurements.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: Melted butter, coconut milk, cream and egg. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir well, removing lumps.

Divide into 3 silicone cupcake molds, 47 g of batter in each. Bake for 14-17 minutes or until done. If you depress the top of a cupcake lightly, it will spring back. Or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Check it out. One of these beautiful full-sized cupcakes has only 1.8 g net carbs. I kept waiting for them to fall, but they didn’t! They kept their perfect cupcake shape and popped out of the silicone molds like a dream (you have to turn them inside out after they cool). They had a nice dense but airy cupcake texture, and you know that a keto cupcake will never be too dry.

 

Nutrition breakdown for 20 g of Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting. This is the amount that I add to the Mexican Chocolate Protein Cupcake to take the ratio of the whole snack to 3.5:1, 243 calories

Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting
30 g Organic Valley Heavy Whipping Cream
88 g Primrose cream cheese
70 g Strauss European style butter
12 g raspberries

Blend all well with a mixer and serve. Full recipe makes 200 g of frosting, or 10 servings at 20 g per cupcake.

You can add a no-carb sweetener to taste. I often use a touch of Nora’s Cytra-K for sweetness and pinkness. You could also use food coloring if it is approved by your dietician and ok for your kid.

Ratio is 10.8:1. I have used it to top the Coconut Cutout Cookies and other treats. When refrigerated, it hardens nicely so you don’t have to worry too much about smashing it. Leave at room temperature to soften.

I know that www.ketocook.com also has a buttercream frosting recipe that uses protein powder. I will have to give that one a try as a new way to use the whey (heh).

Holiday Cookies

Tis the season for holiday treats! Nora and I have been experimenting with several great recipes. At the moment she has 4 different types of goodies in the fridge to choose from!

Three cookie recipes come from www.ketocook.com. The fourth is a new chocolate cupcake recipe that I concocted this weekend, which I will put in a separate post. I am including the links to the original cookie recipes and you can get the recipes and nutritional information there.

Coconut Flour Cut-Out Cookies

This recipe made lovely dough. It was rollable and easy to cut and work with, at least compared to traditional Christmas cookie recipes I have made in the past. I was able to help Nora roll the dough, she cut the shapes, and I could scrape them carefully from the parchment paper and move them to the baking sheet.

How to weigh and serve different cookies was my conundrum. Of course, each cookie will be a different weight because of differences in thickness, even if you were to cut only 1 shape. But who wants 1 shape?!? What to do? How to serve?

Dawn at ketocook said that she makes and serves 1 batch of dough at a time. Then they can cut any shapes as long as they get all of the dough into the cookies. But Nora is smaller and I don’t want to serve her a whole batch at a time. I could halve the batch or do some other portion for each snack. That’s totally doable. But I tried something more complicated (I know, you are not surprised). This is my method for serving other batch recipes that I have been experimenting with, so you will see this again.

As Nora cut the cookies, I weighed them on the scale and recorded the pre-cooked weight for each pan of cookies. We lost about 1 gram of dough to the parchment paper and cutters out of 194 g in our double-batch. With wetter dough it would be necessary to weigh the amount of dough going into the oven (which is just a preview for a future bread post).

After each batch was baked and cooled, I weighed them again. They each lost about 10-12% of their weight in the oven, due to water cooking out. We went from 194 g of dough to 172 g of cookies.

Now we could figure out the nutritional content of each gram of baked cookie. We took the nutritional information of the total dough and divided it by the total baked grams of cookie. To give an example for net carbs, if you calculate the nutritional information per gram of dough, you have o.06 g net carbs per gram of dough (12.6/194). When you divide the nutritional information by the total¬†baked grams of cookie, you get 0.07 net carbs per gram of cookie (12.6/172). Cooking makes them a bit more dense. So if you are baking then weighing out cookies before you serve them and calculating per gram of dough, your estimating error is causing your kid to eat a bit more carbs than you were planning. With these cookies it doesn’t make a big difference, but I am experimenting with using this method for wetter batch doughs in the future where it will make a bigger difference.

Now when we serve Nora these cookies, we can let her choose 1 or 2 of them, weigh them, then figure out the right amount of icing to add to them to bring the ratio up to 3.5:1 for her. For the cookies pictured, I used the cream and coconut oil icing recipe from ketocook.com, although I confess that I didn’t get it to smooth and harden properly because I was in a hurry when I was making it for the first time. I also blended in some strawberry for color. It would be worth another try when I have the time and patience.

The sprinkles are Cake Sparkles by Wilton, made from gum arabic and artificial coloring. My independent research told me that gum arabic is a fiber so it does not add to the carb content and we add just a pinch to her cookies. I don’t know if this has been keto-approved by the Charlie Foundation, so ask your dietician before using. We have had no problem with them. We now have them in pink (pictured), green and red.

This cookie-by-cookie method is not a time saver. You have to frost each cookie individually with the right amount of icing to be at ratio. You can do that each time you serve them, or pre-frost them, but then you have to keep track of how much is in each cookie. Last night I frosted the last 5 cookies so that they are ready to go, and taped a cheat sheet to the container: “red ornament, 7.2 g cookie, 1.5 g icing”… etc. Next time I would do Dawn’s batch version and serve them as a stand-alone snack. Nora is happy. Live and learn!

I would also make this recipe for the rest of the family with a bit of sugar. I liked the coconut flour, but they are a little flat to my taste without the sweetener and I personally don’t like the taste of the little bit of stevia sweetener that I added to Nora’s, about 1/3 of the amount called for in the original recipe. Nora doesn’t mind a bit. Pretty = Delicious

Melt Away Cookies, a.k.a. Russian Tea Cakes or Snowballs 

This was the first holiday cookie I tried because it’s fast. I don’t have a picture, and the picture at the link is much prettier than the cookies I made!

Again, you can serve these as a whole batch for a snack, but I made them 5 g each and pressed them into little holiday candy molds. They are in my Excel database as 5 g cookies so I can serve as many as makes sense for Nora’s snacking needs. They are not at ratio for Nora, so I serve them with tea and cream to make a complete ratio snack.

Snickerdoodles!

Nora loves this recipe! I love this recipe!

I brought this recipe up to 3.5:1 by increasing the butter to 25 g in a batch.

To make these, I bought a Cookie Press hoping that it would make pretty cookies at a uniform weight. I tend to be resistant to buying more kitchen gadgets, but this was already 40% off with other Christmas items at the beginning of December. Seemed like it was worth a shot at $6. But I’m still astounded that they already discounted the holiday stuff and had aisles filled with Valentine’s stuff. In a few years the new holiday merchandise is going to be hitting the shelves in July and discounted in August. Good grief.

The Cookie Press worked fairly well. It works like a caulking gun. You put the dough into a cylinder and a plunger pushes the dough out through your chosen mold at the bottom. It is 1 click per cookie, so it is quite uniform. We refrigerated the dough so that it was a bit firm, but not hard. We put a small piece of parchment paper on the gram scale and Nora gave the Cookie Press one squeeze directly on to the gram scale. Then we had to hold the parchment paper down while pulling the Cookie Press away, leaving the cookie behind. It has helpful to have 4 hands working on it!

Doing it on the gram scale let us weigh each cookie easily. After the first cookie, the rest were close to 6 g each for both of the shapes we made. If it was slightly above or below 6 g, I just took a dab away or added a dab more dough. Then we moved the small piece of parchment paper with cookie to the cookie sheet and did the next. It was quite easy and Nora enjoyed it. Now we have cookies that were made with 6 g of dough each so we can calculate the nutrition per cookie and serve easily. And they are at ratio!

The original recipe tells you to make small balls, roll in cinnamon, then flatten. That is also an easy way to make uniform sizes. I was not able to roll them in cinnamons because of the Cookie Press shapes, so I had a clever idea (if I do say so myself): I put the cinnamon into a tea ball and sifted it over the shaped cookie dough. It worked great!

I made one batch for Nora and they were eaten over the course of the day that I made them. So I made 2 more batches later that day and have about 20 in the fridge for easy snacking.

I also made the same recipe for the rest of us, with a bit less butter and about 1/4 c sugar. They are so good! And so much easier to plunk them straight onto the cookie sheet when I don’t have to weigh each of them. Oh joy! I will be making them for myself again very soon. The first double batch for the family disappeared over the first day–and not only into me, mind you, I also have a 7 year old boy to feed. I will be making more for the rest of us very soon too.

Thanks Dawn and Tiffany at ketocook.com for the fabulous recipes! You make keto-parent life easier and many happy keto-kids.

And now it’s December…

About 1 year ago now Nora first entered ketosis. Oh, those were a first few bad days. She would lie on the floor moaning for toast. I thought that she might chain herself to the refrigerator until we gave her toast and jam. But we survived a long difficult weekend and came out the other side, to ketosis and the first glimmer of Nora getting better after 3 months of myoclonic seizures.

Now she has been seizure-free for over 7 months. Her seizures did not stop right away. We eased into diet therapy by starting with the Modified Atkins Diet, tightening the ratio and spreading her carbs more evenly through the day because we notice that it helped. On Christmas Day last year we had been having success for several days, but decided to celebrate by giving Nora 1/4 piece of toast as some of her carbs for the day. By the afternoon, she was having myoclonics again. So we learned to feed her a more traditional keto diet by trial and error, while consulting with her dietician. After tightening up the diet her myoclonics stopped, but she had a few more early morning tonic-clonics every month or two. After the last one in April 2012 we tightened her ratio to 3.5:1 and she has been seizure-free ever since. What a relief.

Nora has been great lately. We haven’t posted much because life has been busy and we’ve been chugging along with the daily routine. This is a case of “no news is good news.” Nora has been happy with her same-old recipes for the most part. I had done a lot of baking before our quarter started at OSU, so we had plenty of food in the freezer to make it through these busy weeks. I’ve done a bit of baking since then, but the recipes are waiting for another try before I post anything new. On top of it, a recipe for a flaxmeal-based bread fried my hand mixer (there was smoke), so that recipe will have to await new technology at our house! ¬†Nora loved the bread and got to have some PBJ sandwiches, so I hope I can make it again and post the recipe soon.

Our one bit of news is that the kids were both sick about 1 week ago. Nora threw up once before bedtime after complaining of a stomach ache, but she was keeping down all of her Cytra so we didn’t feel that we needed to call the doctor. The next day we reduced her calories and fed her as simply as possible while maintaining her ratio and Cytra rations, but thankfully she kept everything down and felt better. A minor illness was nothing more than a few days of watchfulness and worry, but I felt more at ease because I had just created our illness preparedness plan!

For Thanksgiving dinner I made Nora smashed celery root with cream, cranberry sauce, stuffing made from her most recent flax bread, and chicken. She complained about the whole meal and we had to spoon it into her. I just had to attribute it to the pickiness of a 4-year-old. She had her Keto-Perfect-Cheesecake for dessert, so all’s well that ends well.

Now that our quarter at OSU is over, we are getting ready for the holiday season. I’m going to make some of the cookie recipes from Dawn and Tiffany at ketocook.com as the new treats for this month. I may stick with those tried-and-true recipes, but if I come up with anything new and interesting you will find it here.

Now that we are 1 year into the diet, we can look back at our ups and downs. We can be grateful that we have come this far, and the year ahead doesn’t look so uncertain and daunting. We are finally starting to believe this is really working in the long term, although there will always be a bit of uncertainty about Nora’s seizure threshold. I’m sure that will always be with us. But most of all we are so very grateful to be here with hope for the coming year. Being in the groove never felt so good.