Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Low-carb breakfast on the run

with 6 comments

Breakfast bites

Most recent update 21 Feb 2021. One serving (of the 9 the recipe makes) is 7 Weight Watcher Freestyle points if you use 12 oz sausage, 3 WW Freestyle points if you use 12 oz poached chicken breast chopped into small pieces. /update

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 eggs.

• 1-2 tablespoons bacon fat (butter, olive oil, and ghee also work well)
• 1 medium to large onion, finely diced (or 2 spring onions, including green leaves
• good pinch of salt
Lots (like 1.5-2 Tbsp) 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.]
• Either 12 oz uncooked bulk or link sausage (7 WW Freestyle points per serving); or instead use 12 oz chopped poached chicken breast (3 WW Freestyle points per serving). (12 oz = 0.75 lb) See below for best way to poach chicken breast.
• 1.5 tablespoon ground turmeric.
• 10 eggs (I use jumbo, but extra-large is fine)
• [Optional: 1-2 tablespoon Dijon mustard]
• 1 cup grated cheese: Gruyère, Swiss, cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack. You can use instead crumbled blue or Gorgonzola as well.
• [Optional: several dashes pepper sauce (The Wife doesn’t like spicy, but I would use; I would also use spicy sausage.)]

Just before step 2, preheat the oven to 375ºF and prepare this Wilton 8×8 pan. I’ve experimented with various ways of ensuring the frittata doesn’t stick, and I’ve settled on the use of parchment paper—every other approach resulted in sticking.

King Arthur Baking Company 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). The pre-cut sheets 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. UPDATE: I just learned that if you wet the parchment paper, then wring it dry, it is easy to shape and will not fight you. /update

I fold the sheet at an angle so the edge of the end lines up with the edge of the side to make a triangle shape and cut off the excess, leaving only the triangle. When you open it, you have a square that is 12 1/4″ on a side. I fold it to line the interior of the pan. In practice, that means putting the sheet on top and the pan and pressing it down into the pan, folding it as you go. Corner folds I just mash into place. (After the cooked frittata has cooled, it slides easily from the pan onto the cooling rack, and the parchment paper is easily peeled from the frittata.) Update: I now know that if I wet the sheet and wring it dry, I could easily mold it to match the shape of the pan. Still the method describes works pretty well — the photo above is of one made that way.)

Step 1

You can use a regular onion, but when they’re in season, I use spring onions (both 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.

Sauté the onion (or other allium) for a few minutes. While the onions cook, chop the greens. I mostly use red chard or red kale, and I use the stems as well as the leaves, chopping the stems small. Add the greens and continue sautéing until the greens wilt.

While the greens cook, if you’re using sausage, cut bulk sausage into strips and then across the strips into little squares; this makes it easier to break up in the pan as you cook it. If you’re using link sausage, just cut in the links into small cross-sections.

OTOH, if you’re using poached chicken breasts, it’s better to chop the meat small before you start.

After the greens have cooked down somewhat: If you’re using sausage, add the roughly cut sausage and continue to sauté until sausage is cooked. If you’re using poached chicken breast, no need to cook it more: just stir it in and proceed.

Add salt and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. I use at least 1 tablespoon and closer to two. (I use this little coffee mill as a pepper grinder for cooking, and it turns out to be an inspired purchase: easy to use, easy to fill, and pumps out ground pepper like nobody’s business.)

With chicken breast, you can add, stir, and proceed, but the sausage must be cooked. Make sure the sausage is cooked (and any excess water boiled off—sometimes sausage seems to have a little added water). Then, whether using sausage or chicken breast, add the turmeric and stir it in. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and it’s a good idea to get 1/2 tsp daily. For 9 breakfast squares, that’s a total of 4.5 tsp = 1.5 Tbsp. Add the turmeric after the sautéing is done since turmeric tends to stick.

Turn off heat. Let that cool for a while. (I really like how I get a break in making this; sometimes I let it cool for an hour or two while I go do something else, but 15-20 minutes is plenty.)

Step 2

Whisk the eggs with the Dijon mustard (if you’re using that), then whisk in the cheese. Once that is well mixed, add the sautéed onions, greens, sausage/chicken, and turmeric. Mix well. This whisk works particularly well if you can find it. (Try searching on the name.)

Pour the 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 always done.

Let the frittata  sit to cool for 20 minutes or so, then put this 10.5″ round rack on top of the pan and then invert the pan and place the rack (now with the frittata on top, still in the cooking pag) on this Wilton 9×9 pan, which comes with a snap-on cover—handy for storing the frittata in the fridge. The idea is to provide good airflow around the frittata to speed cooling.

Lift the cooking pan off the frittata (it comes off easily because of the parchment-paper lining), and then peel the parchment paper off the frittata. (See photo above for result.) Let the frittata cool on the rack, then put it into 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.

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. If you’re on Weight Watchers Freestyle, each square is 7 points.

What to do with the two leftover eggs

What I do is make mayonnaise, which is ever so much better than store-bought and is very easy if you have this immersion blender with its beaker. Here’s the recipe with variants.

Poaching chicken breasts

Use four chicken breast halves.

Pound the thickest part of each chicken breast half to make the piece more uniform in thickness. (Use Saran Wrap or the like around the breast as you pound it.) This pounder works well.

In a large pot, put 4 quarts water, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar and stir to dissolve. Put the chicken breasts on a steamer rack and immerse in the pot. Leave for 30 minutes to brine and flavor the chicken. The steamer rack is to keep the chicken breasts from sitting on the bottom of the pot, where they can easily overcook from the heat conducted through the metal.

Put the pot over medium heat and heat until the water temperature reaches 175ºF, stirring occasionally to keep the water temperature uniform. When the temperature is reached, remove pot from heat, cover, and let sit 15 minutes, and then start taking the temperature of the meat. (I use this instant-read thermometer. I made two changes to the default settings (manual tells you how): I made the readout include tenths of a degree, and I locked the display in place rather than allowing it to rate.)

You want the meat just to reach 160ºF. Remove breasts from heat and, if serving immediately, cover with foil and let sit 5 minutes.

I generally just refrigerate them to use them in various recipes: the ratatouille, a tossed salad, with beans as a chili, and so on. In the Weight Watchers plan, boneless skinless chicken breasts have zero points.

More on my LCHF progress — and, in updates, why I switched to a whole-food plant-based diet

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.

That’s the idea behind a low-carb diet. I highly recommend Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and also Nina Teicholz’s excellent book The Big Fat Surprise.

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, your diet can achieve a better balance.

A very good intro to LCHF eating, and a good success story. (See also this introduction.)


UPDATE: BTW, there are vegetarian and vegan low-carb diets, as well.

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 blindly to 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 exposed by refined carbohydrates 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 ten thousands of 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.

Update 3: I found that I initially lost weight using LCHF but then that stopped, so clearly it was necessary to limit intake. I started Weight Watchers Freestyle, using the on-line tools only (no meetings) and it is working extremely well. There are over 200 zero-point foods, and it’s quite easy to eat a low-carb high-fat diet using WW Freestyle.

Update 4: After five years on a LCHF diet, I learned of some serious long-term drawbacks, and I switched to a whole-food plant-based diet. “Plant-based” means no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, though I do include fungi (not plants, but also not animal). “Whole-food” means I don’t eat refined foods (refined sugar, foods made from refined flour, fruit juice (though whole fruit is fine) nor highly processed foods manufactured from refined ingredients and various additives using industrial processes and sold packaged under a brand name).

For example, I eat grain, but because I eat whole foods, I do not eat grain that has been processed by being cut (steel-cut oats or pot barley, for example) or polished (white rice, pearled barley) or smashed (rolled oats, barley flakes) or pulverized (flour and food products (like bread) made from it) — and I certainly do not eat boxed breakfast cereals, manufactured from refined ingredients (generally including lots of refined sugar).

Instead, I eat intact whole grain — oat groats, hulled barley, wheat berries, whole rye, Kamut® (organically grown khorasan wheat, my favorite), spelt, emmer, farro, red fife wheat, etc. — that you can buy (at low cost) from the bulk bins at a good supermarket or grocery store. Reason: intact grain is more healthful than processed grain. See also this excellent article.

Because intact whole grains take a fairly long time to cook, I cook a batch on weekends and take a portion for each meal. They all follow the same recipe: Add 1 cup intact whole grain to 3 cups boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until all the water’s been absorbed. Depending on the grain, that can take from 1 to 2 hours—just continue checking from time to time, since the water levels’s easy to see. Toward the end, stir the grain to make sure the water’s all been absorbed.

Note: Rice and also pseudograins — like amaranth, quinoa, and the like — use 2 cups water (not 3) to 1 part rice or pseudograin. I don’t use much rice, and when I do I prefer black/forbidden rice, though brown rice or wild rice (which includes the bran) is okay.

Once it’s done, put it into a storage container and refrigerate. (This step makes the starch resistant so that it is more slowly digested and thus lengthens satiation and nourishes the gut microbiome in much the way that dietary fiber does.) Then for each meal take a portion and eat it hot or cold with whatever accompaniments I want.

I collected into one (somewhat detailed) post everything I’ve learned about a good diet. Read that post for the whole story.

Update: This recipe is also interesting. (Link is to video.)

180 firinda = 356ºF
25 dakika = 25 minutes
4 potatoes,
1 leek,
2 carrots
100 grams of spinach (I would use 4 oz)
1/2 red pepper
4 eggs,
4 tablespoons of olive oil,
4 tablespoons of milk
4 tablespoons of flour
1/2 pack of baking powder ( ≈ 3 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt, pepper.
50 grams of grated cheddar cheese (I would use 2 oz)
Sesame, black seed

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2014 at 2:49 pm

6 Responses

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  1. I have read from several sources that fat is the preferred fuel of the human body. One of the *proofs* that is offered is that when the body stores excess fuels, it stores them as fat. Only a very small amount of glucose is stored by the body in muscles and the liver. That glucose is intended for quick energy in *life and death* situations.



    28 May 2014 at 3:54 pm

  2. Well, also fat is more compact per joule: 1g of fat is 9 calories, 1g of carb is 4 calories (and same for protein). So storing energy as carbs would take up almost twice as much room as storing as fat.

    I do think that a low-carb high-fat diet works well for people—my weight is dropping rapidly right now, and yet I feel satisfied and look forward my meals. And I have to say, keeping net carbs low is a like a game: I use my Diet Controller Food panel as a simulator: I run in various foods and combinations to see the analysis before I enter what I finally end up eating. In fact, using that was how I figure out calories, carbs, and fiber for the breakfast bites.

    I think that fat being so delicious is a pretty strong evolutionary clue.

    UPDATE: This is not to imply that all fats are good. All animal fats are good, and olive oil is good. Canola oil is okay. But cottonseed oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflowewr oil: I avoid them like the plague. And soybean oil is in almost everything now. It’s the high-fructose corn syrup of oils.

    There are various other good oils: avocado oil, almond oil, etc. But some oils are bad.



    28 May 2014 at 4:31 pm

  3. Good luck with it over the long term. You know my motto: “It’s not how hard you go that counts…’s how long you go hard that matters”. 🙂



    30 May 2014 at 1:46 pm

  4. So far, so good. I am still learning: it’s easy to overshoot the calorie goal, I find. But I keep track and improve daily. As I recall, the “long term” for this diet will be a month. (I think you mentioned you had not been able to get beyond two weeks.) Yesterday was good: 15g net carbs. Today so far it looks to be 14g net carbs.



    30 May 2014 at 2:03 pm

  5. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeit your recipe better come with a cook ‘cos i ain’t doing all dat!


    Tyrone Tyrese

    11 November 2019 at 7:25 am

  6. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This post might be of interest. Try this: make the recipe 6 times. It will be awkward and difficult at first because you’re doing something new, but by the sixth time you will have learned from experience, gained some skill through practice, and will find it easy and even satisfying.

    Alternatively, of course, you could just skip it, but if you always skip any new thing or anything that is challenging, you won’t grow much in skills or understanding. New things are difficult. But petty soon they are no longer new and no longer difficult. (If you’re, say, a musician, you already know this.) Learning to persist through the start-up stage is a valuable lesson that has wide application.



    11 November 2019 at 7:47 am

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