Low-carb breakfast on the run
I found a good recipe here, and so I adapted it more to my taste. It’s basically a frittata, so you can look around at frittata recipes for variations. I’ve updated this below (on 27 Feb 2016) with new information (specifically, this time, on the parchment sheets). Photo of the frittata cooling added 26 Mar 2016.
Sausage & Egg Breakfast Bites
This frittata makes 9 squares, each square containing 1.1 egg.
- 1-2 Tbsp oil (I’ve used butter, olive oil, bacon fat, and ghee—all work well; mostly I use bacon fat)
- 1 medium to large onion, finely diced; when they’re in season, I use spring onions (bulb and leaves) and have also used shallots, scallions, and leeks: the idea is to use some variety of allium, and you can choose which one.
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper (Pepper helps with the turmeric: see this article.)
- 1 bunch kale, red kale, chard, red chard, or spinach—stems minced, leaves chopped fairly small. I mostly use red chard or red kale.
- [Optional: 4-8 garlic cloves, minced—The Wife vetoed this for a breakfast dish.]
- 3/4 lb uncooked bulk sausage (before cooking I cut it into strips and then across the strips into little squares; although the sausage sticks back together somewhat, the cutting makes it easier to break up in the pan as you cook it); or 3/4 lb sausage links cut into small cross-sections. (I have also tried using sliced ham from the deli—10 oz—and cutting that into little squares to use in place of the sausage. However, commercial cooked ham has a lot of water added, and this cooks out as you sauté it, so it’s necessary to boil off the excess water. I ultimately returned to sausage.)
- 1.5 Tbsp ground turmeric. (Turmeric is a terrific antioxidant.) – Add this after the sausage has cooked, otherwise the turmeric causes sticking. Using 1.5 Tbsp means each of the nine portions has 0.5 tsp turmeric, the recommended daily allotment.
- 10 eggs (I use jumbo, but extra-large is fine)
- 1-2 Tbsp sour cream (can also use heavy whipping cream). Be sure to get pure sour cream, not “lite” or sour cream with cornstarch added: check the ingredients.
- [Optional: a small bunch of parsley or other fresh herb (tarragon, chives, basil, etc.) I have gradually discontinued using this—couldn’t tell that it made any difference.]
- [Optional: 1-2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I’ve stopped using this; it seems to taste fresher without—but experiment)]
- 1 c. grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese; I’ve used Havarti, crumbled blue, and Gorgonzola as well, sometimes a mix. Generally, though, it’s Swiss cheese. But try cheddar, Monterey jack or pepper jack, Gruyère, whatever.
- [Optional: several dashes pepper sauce (The Wife doesn’t like spicy, but I would use; I would also use spicy sausage.)]
- [Optional: freshly grated nutmeg (I’ve stopped using it because I couldn’t taste it.)]
Preheat the oven to 375ºF and prepare this Wilton 8×8 pan. Preparation has varied, but I’ve settled on the use of parchment paper. Here was my findings:
- The non-stick surface of the pan works well for one or two uses, then the frittata starts sticking. I at first tried greasing the pan well (using butter or ghee), and that worked for a while but then started to fail.
- So I switched to lining the pan with nonstick aluminum foil. I would tear off a piece that’s about 14″ long (width of pan plus 3″ on either side) and press that around the bottom of the pan, nonstick side against the pan, squeezing it around the pan to form a pan shape, folding over the excess foil at the corners. I then remove the foil, which is thus shaped into an 8×8 nonstick foil pan, and put it inside the baking pan as a liner. The foil covers the bottom and sides of the interior of the pan, so the foil is a pan within a pan, as it were. When you take the frittata from the oven, let it cool 20 minutes, then place a rack on top and invert the pan onto the rack. The foil slips right out of the pan, and the foil comes right off the frittata. The foil works but the foil is very easily torn as you press it into the pan.
- I next tried parchment paper: I again fold it to line the interior of the pan—and parchment paper is tough, so you don’t accidentally poke a hole in it or tear it—and then use scissors to cut away the excess height. That worked like a charm: after the cooked frittata cooled, it slid easily from the pan onto the cooling rack, and the parchment paper was easily peeled from the frittata. I’m using parchment paper from now on. King Arthur Flour sells pre-cut sheets of parchment paper (16 1/2″ x 12 1/4″) in 50-sheet packages ($12.95) and 100-sheet packages ($19.95). (These are much easier to use than tearing off a piece from a roll of parchment paper: those tend to curl up so you have to fight them.) I fold one end of the sheet at a right angle so that its edge aligns with the edge of the side, then cut off the excess to produce a square 12 1/4″ on a side: just right to cover bottom and sides of pan. I crease and fold it into the pan, and it has worked perfectly. (Amazon sells cut 8″x8″ sheets of parchment paper with tabs on either side: these did not work at all: sides stuck, and it was a mess.)
I begin by sautéing the onion for a few minutes, then add the greens and sauté them together until the greens wilt. Add salt and a lot of freshly ground black pepper.
I mostly use red chard, and I use the stems as well as the leaves, chopping the stems small and sautéing them with the onion. If you use kale or collards or other greens, do the same thing: mince or chop small the stems and cook them with the rest of the greens.
After the greens have cooked down somewhat, add the roughly cut sausage (and the garlic, if you use that). Crumbling the sausage was a pain, thus the idea of cutting bulk sausage into thin strips, then across into small squares—that makes it easier to break up the sausage in the skillet. With link sausage, simply cut the links into small pieces.
Continue to sauté until sausage is cooked. If you use chopped ham instead of sausage, it will probably releases a lot of water, added to ham to increase tenderness; you then must boil off that water (which is why I have switched back to using sausage).
Once the meat is cooked (and any excess water boiled off), add the turmeric and cook a moment longer, stirring to mix in the turmeric. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and it’s a good idea to get 1/2 tsp daily. For 9 breakfast squares, that’s 4.5 tsp = 1.5 Tbsp. Add it at when the sautéing is done since the turmeric tends to stick.
Turn off heat. Let that cool for a while. (I really like how I get a break in making this; generally I let it cool for an hour or two while I go do something else, but 15-20 minutes is plenty.)
Whisk the eggs with the cream (and Dijon mustard, if you’re using that), then whisk in the cheese and (if you’re using them) the parsley and nutmeg. Once that is well mixed, add the sautéed onions, greens, sausage, and turmeric. Mix well. This whisk works particularly well.
Pour then mixture into the 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper folded to fit the pan.
Bake 35 minutes and test. When you give the pan a shake, the middle should remain still, not jiggle at all. With jumbo eggs I bake for 45 minutes before testing, and they’re generally done.
When the frittata is done, let it sit to cool for 20 minutes or so, then invert the pan onto this 10.5″ round rack, and then stand the rack in this Wilton 9×9 pan, which comes with a snap-on cover—handy for storing the pan in the fridge. The frittata comes out easily from the pan because of the parchment-paper lining, and the parchment paper is easily peeled off the frittata. Let the frittata cool on the rack, then put it in the 9×9 pan, snap on the cover, and refrigerate it overnight. (If you cut the frittata while it’s hot, it’s crumbly and harder to eat out of one’s hand—on the way to work, for example. Thus, refrigerate before cutting.)
The next morning turn it out onto a cutting board. Cut twice vertically to make 3 columns, turn it 90º and cut twice more to produce 9 squares.
- Roast 10 slices of thick bacon in 400ºF oven for 20 minutes or until bacon is crisp. (The thick bacon I buy takes 23-34 minutes.) Let cool, cut into squares, and use that in lieu of the sausage.
- Cut broccoli into florets, steam for 9 minutes, then let cool. You may then want to chop the broccoli a little smaller. Sauté it with the onions in lieu of the greens. Sauté well to drive off excess moisture.
- Sauté 3/4 lb ham steak, cut into chunks, in lieu of the sausage. However, ham nowadays contains quite a bit of water, which you must boil offer before adding to the egg.
- Chop asparagus spears into 1/2″ pieces, steam for 5 minutes, and use with the greens or in lieu of the greens. Asparagus will contain excess water, so (as with the steamed broccoli), sauté it enough to boil off excess water.
As I figure it: Each square has 275 calories, along with 4.9 g carbs and 1.0 g fiber, so 3.9 g net carbs per square.
What to do with the two leftover eggs
What I do is make mayonnaise, which is every so much better than store-bought and is very easy if you have this immersion blender with its beaker.
First let the 2 eggs sit on the counter until they are room temperature. This is essential. Once the eggs are at room temperature, put the yolks only in the immersion blender’s beaker. I discard the whites, but you could scramble them.
Add to the beaker holding the two yolks:
heaping 1/2 tsp kosher salt
heaping 1/2 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
Blend that thoroughly. Then add, a little at a time, 1 cup of olive oil, blending thoroughly after each addition. At first it will seem soupy, but it thickens as the oil is added. When all the oil has been mixed in, pour/scrape into a container, cover, and refrigerate.
I tried using a mix of olive oil and avocado oil, but the more olive oil I used, the better the mayo was, so now I just use pure olive oil, either plain olive oil or lemon olive oil or garlic olive oil or half-and-half lemon and garlic olive oils. (Avocado oil does, however, make a great oil for sautéing because it has a very high smoke point: 520ºF.) I really like these olive oils, though I’ve tried only the “bold” of the regular olive oil. The lemon and garlic are excellent, and my latest batch of mayo was made with their basil olive oil: very nice. (They sell the oils in gallows: $45 for regular, $53 for infused.)
You can vary it, of course: crush some garlic into it with the lemon juice; add a few anchovies with the lemon juice, add some pitted black olives with the lemon juice; add some cayenne pepper with the lemon juice. (I say “with the lemon juice” because these additions should be made and blended before you start adding the oil.)
I’m thinking of making a batch of mayo using walnut oil…
Once you see how easy it is and how tasty the result, you’ll never go back to store-bought (i.e., fake) mayo. I always have a supply of this in the fridge.
More on my LCHF progress
It feels weird to eat low-carb meals like these breakfast bites because I’ve been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that eating fat will make me fat, a silly idea if your total daily calorie intake is reasonable. Even with the (false) idea that all calories are alike, fat should have been deemed okay to eat. But somehow we had the idea that eating fat will make us fat—as if eating starches made us starchy, or eating sugar made us sweet, or eating greens made us green.
A lot happens to any food—whatever it is—becomes body fat, including digesting it and metabolizing it. And simple carbs—foods using refined flour and/or sugar of one form or another (soft drinks, for example, or candy, bread, pasta, rice, crackers, cookies, cake, white potatoes, potato chips)—trigger a rush of insulin, which protects the stored body fat, preferentially burning the refined carbs.
So once the sugar burns off, having no access to your stored fat, you’re hungry again. So you eat again, and often that meal or snack has a lot of refined carbs… It’s a vicious circle. Thus fat accumulates because you can’t makes use of it if your diet is high in carbs.
One thing that now makes sense: why fat tastes so good. Probably it’s because it was a major source of calories as we evolved. Those who developed a taste for it fared better. And once you start to think of fat as simply another food and source of calories, you diet can achieve a better balance.
UPDATE 2: It occurs to me that modern agronomy and food processing methods have exposed a bug, as it were, in our digestive/metabolic/storage system. Evolution never tested for high fructose corn syrup or refined sugar or white flour or the like. The result is like when a programmer forgets to consider the effect of negative numbers in an input field resulting in program failure. But since evolution doesn’t think, just operates mechanically on the next step, it can hardly be blamed. And in any event, evolution is fixing the bug that right now: people whom the new diet sickens will not be so successful, overall, as those who can handle the new diet (or avoid the new diet), and so that particular metabolic weakness will select out a subgroup, and as favorable mutations randomly occur, the capacity to live well on such foods will fare relatively better. It’s slow, but what’s a few hundred thousand years? (If we last that long, which seems unlikely.)
But our body’s reaction to a high-carb diet is indeed a problem for our ability to function, and thus it does engage the slow-grinding wheels of evolution to begin work toward a solution. What we’re seeing is evolution in action: those less able to find a solution will not succeed so well as the others.
It’s definitely a bug: unexpected input blows the program out of the water.