Keto: Coconut Bites

Where are my coconut lovers at? Where are my “I want to be healthy but I have a sweet tooth” peeps at? This one is for YOU!

Remember that Sweetened Condensed Milk I made in my previous post? This is where that extra cup gets used! This is another recipe I have adjusted from an Almond Joy Cookie recipe I found on Pinterest. The things I changed from the recipe was how I made the milk (used the stevia blend and add vanilla), I didn’t use sugar free chocolate chips (see my post about hidden sugars for more info) and I only use half the amount of chocolate chips. I feel like the milk adds enough sweetness it’s okay to eliminate some chocolate to reduce the amount of sugar.

Again, this recipe is amazing because it really has limited ingredients-only 4!

Ingredients

Sweetened condensed milk – 1 Cup

Unsweetened Coconut – 1 1/2 Cup

Sliced Almonds – 2/3 Cup

Dark Chocolate Chips – 1/2 Cup

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease a mini muffin tin. You can easily use a normal muffin tin and make larger bites. We prefer the bites because it is just easy to pop right in!

2. Put all ingredients in one bowl and mix well. Make sure to cover all the coconut with the milk.

3. Scoop mixed ingredients into greased tin. Make sure you firmly press them down into the pan. I’m able to get 24 bites using this recipe.

4. Place bites in preheated oven ofor 15-20 minutes. When bites are done they will be brown and bubbly. See below:

5. The bites will not firm up on there on and will be very soft at this time. Place them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes minimum.

6. At this point you can take them out of the pan. If you think you want more chocolate you can dip the bites in melted chocolate like below:

I dipped them this time but it really doesn’t need it! Let me know how you like them!

One of these delicious treats is around 3g of carbs. That’s a complete winner!

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Keto: Beating the Sweets

In one of my previous posts here I mentioned how I found an awesome recipe that I slightly adjust to make my coffee creamer. I actually use this recipe to make many things such as my favorite keto cookies and keto fudge. I will post both of those recipes soon!

I want to start with just making the creamer. I actually make a double batch of this and use half for creamer and the other half for a sweet treat throughout the week!

Above you will see my nutrition label on the left and store bought on the right. A serving of my creamer is 1 tablespoon but even so, two servings of mine is less than 6 g sugar compared to 22 g off the shelf. It’s a no brainer to me! Again, the recipe below is for a double batch of the creamer so if you don’t think you will use it or just want to do a trial run of it I would half the recipe below.

Ingredients

**This recipe can take up to 45 minutes so don’t start it if you are in a hurry! Most of it is inactive time but you will need to check it about every 10 minutes or so**

30% Whipping Cream – 2 pints

Sweetener (I use a stevia blend) – 2/3 Cup

Butter – 4 Tablespoons

Vanilla – 1 Tablespoon

Directions

1. Put all ingredients in a large pot and place stove on high. I was using a normal size sauce pan for the first month of making this and it just takes TOO long to boil. Especially for a double batch!

2. When ingredients come to a boil (I timed this batch and that happened around 12 minutes) reduce the heat to low. My stove goes up to a 9 on the dial and I turn it down to a 3 at this time, just as reference!

3. Around 20 minutes the creamer will start to brown and caramelize. Stir the creamer every 10 minutes or so just to avoid burning. Below are reference pictures to what it will look like throughout the process. When it is done it will be sticky and have an appearance of caramel. For this double batch it took almost an hour but I think I turned the heat down too soon!

As I mentioned, this was a double batch. I place 1 Cup in a measuring cup to bring to room temperature and the rest goes into the fridge for creamer!

Once the creamer is in the refrigerator for about two hours or so it will take a lighter color and be ready! Let me know how you like it!

Keto: How to Read Nutrition Labels…that hidden sugar!

Ugh, that title sounds so boring! But the truth is, I completely forget that people don’t generally read nutrition labels. Since I have always been a calorie counter I have a habit of reading most labels. However, with Keto? It became a whole new game!

I’m going to probably talk down to some now, but not on purpose! I recently learned a lot of people were unfamiliar with sugars. So carbohydrates are either starches or sugars (and fibers but we like those!!) The tricky one is sugar. I say this because sugar is hidden on a lot of labels using other fancy words. The trick here is to start by looking at a label for the carbs.

So the picture above is of sugar free chocolate chips that a recipe I was using called for. In blue is our carbs, in red our sugar. So 9 total carbs, 1 being fiber (fiber is good!) and notice it says 0g of sugar. Well I am standing in the store confused at the other 8g of carbs because let’s be honest, there is not a lot of starch in chocolate chips. So I google Maltitol. It’s a sugar alcohol! It literally has all the same properties as sugar except for browning. So I look at normal chocolate chips. Well dark chocolate because that is what we prefer.

They have less carbs! Needless to say the choice for me was easy. I totally bought the dark chocolate!

Another trick that these companies use is the “no sugar added” gimmick. Below is some oranges with no sugar added.

The no sugar added is sugar alcohol. Fruit is tricky because it is high in natural sugars. Below is a “normal” oranges. Please keep in mind these are not fresh items as I’m trying to show labels specifically!

So when you look at these two images it is important to point out that when you factor in the “fake” sugar the carbs in these two items are not that much different from each other. Personally if I were buying these items I would probably buy the one with more carbs because it will contain more of the natural sugar that fruit has.

I know a lot of people will completely argue that the ingredients are actually what should be focused on when looking at a label. And I’m not going to argue against that point. I’ve heard the common rule not to eat anything with more than 3 ingredients or any ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Again, both good tips. But for this post I was really trying to focus on those pesky sugars!

I hope this was helpful to some. More recipes have been requested so I plan on doing our house favorite dessert tomorrow…low carb of course!

How to Start a Keto Diet

Let me start by saying, I know very minimal about this diet. Well, that’s not true. I researched this diet like CRAZY when my husband mentioned he wanted to do it. Honestly, I was trying to find reasons to NOT do it. Because, well, bread. Is. Life. But then after the first week when he went all in and lost 6 pounds and I lost none I figured I better get on board!

Another reason I looked into it a lot is I was told the side effects can initially be really intense because it changes your metabolism. With me having hypothyroidism I am always nervous about anything that can mess with my body in regards to metabolism and hormones.

With that being said, I can also say that I still don’t do a “Keto” diet for real. If you research the diet you will find that to reach Ketosis (when your body switches from burning carbs for energy to burning fat for energy) it is recommended to eat 20 g or less of carbs a day. I used a little calculator (like the one found here: https://www.perfectketo.com/keto-macro-calculator/) and since I wasn’t interested in losing a lot of weight it gave me 54 grams of carbs.

I feel like based on the fact that I still consume 50 carbs or more a day I did not get a lot of the side effects you will find if you research the topic. So on to my amateur suggestions if this diet sounds intriguing to you!

1. If you are a fake coffee drinker like me (lots of creamer and/or sugar) you will need to find an alternative. I struggled with this the first two weeks. A lot of people just switch to black coffee. I wasn’t able…actually I was just completely unwilling to drink black coffee. Sugar free creamer is an option but I found for the one tablespoon serving those 5g of sugar was not worth it. I utilize a homemade sweet and condensed milk and it is AMAZING. I use this recipe: https://mymontanakitchen.com/2016/10/06/3-ingredient-sweetened-condensed-milk-thm-s-low-carb-sugar-free/.

2. Meal prep. You just can’t make it without meal prep. There is little to zero items you can just grab off of a shelf in the store for a quick bite. I have tried. Many times. I end up with like a beef jerky stick. Gross. I really cut out snacking completely. I have learned many recipes using cauliflower and “fake” bread. I will say for all my friends living in the states, apparently y’all got a lot of stuff store bought that is keto friendly. Our choices here in Japan are very limited. There is rice and noodles (yummm ramen) everywhere!

3. Some items I would recommend buying for when you start looking into recipes:

Almond Flour, Coconut Flour, cream cheese, cauliflower, whipping cream, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut flakes, A LOT of eggs, cheese, and tons of meat!

At this point I have lost 8 pounds using this diet in 8 weeks. The first 6 pounds came off in the first 4 weeks, however. That was most likely the water weight that carbs keep in your body. The keto calculator I mentioned earlier gave me 107g protein, 116g fat, and 1670 calories a day. I am certain I don’t hit the fat and protein daily but I still have lost the weight!

Zucchini Chips

One of the low carb areas I’ve had trouble with is side dishes. Main dishes, meat, was obviously fairly easy. Cauliflower is one of the main items people seem to use to make some delicious side dishes but after a few weeks it can get old. This is when I started looking into zucchini. It has not disappointed!

I have made this recipe as fries many times and last night decided to try it as “chips.” I personally like the chips better. I felt like they cooked more evenly and the breading stayed on better.

Ingredients

Large Zucchini – 1

Grated Parmesan – 3/4 Cup

Almond Flour – 1/4 Cup

Garlic Powder – 2 TBSP

Italian Seasoning – 2 TBSP

Eggs – 2

Water – splash

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425. Wash and thinly slice Zucchini.

2. Combine grated Parmesan cheese, almond flour, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning in a bowl.

3. Beat two eggs and a splash of water in a separate bowl to create an egg wash.

4. Place aluminum foil on a baking sheet and grease. I then make myself a little assembly line to keep the potential mess to a minimum.

5. Cover zucchini in egg wash.

6. Transfer zucchini to the breading mix.

7. Place on baking sheet.

8. Bake for 20-25 minutes!

The nutrition information is below. Enjoy!

Keto Breakfast Casserole

As many of my friends know Nick and I have been doing the Keto diet. I use that term loosely, however. While I think he is doing Keto I think I have adapted a more low carb diet. The reason I say that is because if you know about the recently popular Keto diet it includes a huge increase in fat and protein intake. I am not good at that part but I have become very good at cutting carbs!

With that being said, I wanted to share some of my favorite recipes with my friends! It will also prove that low carb is not hard and it’s not so bad.

Above is the nutrition breakdown for this recipe and it actually does have high fat in it! I’ve learned with the lack of sugar in my diet the calories in many things are easier to get accept. Generally eating something this size and seeing over 300 calories would make me cringe! The following ingredients are needed for this recipe:

Ingredients

Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage – 16oz Roll

Full fat cream cheese – 8oz

30% Whipping Cream – 1/4 cup

Shredded Cheese of Choice – 1/2 cup

Large Eggs – 8

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425. Brown sausage in a skillet, drain grease.

2. Put sausage back in warm skillet. Add 8oz cream cheese. The warm skillet will help the cream cheese soften up and bind together with the sausage.

Place sausage in a greased baking dish. For this size of casserole I used an 8×8 dish.

3. Place 8 eggs in a medium bowl. Add the 1/4 cup 30% whipping cream to the eggs. Beat the two together. Add cheese and slightly beat all three (egg, cream, and cheese).

4. At this point season as you like. Personally I did not add the normal spices such as salt and pepper. Since I used sage sausage it had a lot of flavor already. I only added parsley to the egg mixture.

5. Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture. I leave gaps in the sausage so that egg seeps into the sausage and it makes for a better binding.

6. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes! Let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

* Some possible add ins are any vegetables of your choice. Once I added a can of Rotel and it was amazing.

** If I am making this for meal prep purposes I will use a 9×13 dish and just increase the egg amount to 12 and add another 1/4 cup of cream. It works so well for breakfast prep. Breakfast is definitely the meal I struggle with throughout the week.

Enjoy!

The Internet Will Not Save Your Marriage

I’m addicted to Pinterest. That’s not how you thought that would start, was it? Haha! Well that is how this blog started for me. I go to Pinterest for everything. And then you know what happens? It does that little compatibility thing for me and picks Pins for me based on other items I have scoped out. 


(Really? Based on my zodiac sign that I share with a million people?!)

I am not sure what article I clicked on recently but my feed has been filling up with relationship “advice.” So it kind of caught my interest. I wanted to see the supposed “7 Resons To Break Up Even if You Are Happy.” Not because I believe it. I wanted to know what they were using as evidence to support these articles. As an individual who is finishing up my graduate degree I have learned: I need facts. 


You know what Pinterest gave me. Not facts. Loosely referenced “counselors” were behind these articles. I put counselors in quotations because the previsouly mentioned article actually titles someone “licensed counselor.” Which is just fine. I will also be licensed in counseling (hopefully soon!). In education. As a licensed education counselor, do you want my guidance on relationships? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, there are bits and pieces of articles like these that really do make sense. That is not really the point of what I am getting at, however. 

I can say this, my husband and I don’t really fight. We have never had an argument that wasn’t resolved within a one day timeframe. I will also say we have been married “only” four years and together for six so I am no marriage expert by any means. What I can say with full certainty is, if my relationship was struggling in any way shape or form two things would absolutely not happen. The first being: I would not seek advice from an Internet article. The second thing is: you (any of you) would probably never know. 

I think the latter statement is so important. I hear women and men talking about their relationships so openly sometimes. And you know what happens? I gain an opinion of either both of those individuals or one of them. I have NO reason to know those things about an intimate relationship outside of my own. As a friend, please vent to me. However, also know that talking to people who are not a confidant about your marriage is opening your relationship to outsiders who are not in the marriage. When you allow others into your relationship that is when all of the sudden other people have this false sense of opinion to add. 

If you are struggling, be old fashioned. Go to a licensed counselor. Sit in an office. Sign a confidentiality agreement. Fight for your marriage behind closed doors. Don’t trust online articles from bustle.com who are geared to making money for expert advice. I know some of you are probably thinking “marriage counselors get paid a ton of money.” They may make a decent salary, yes. However, they have went through extensive school and hold a lot of liability when it comes to investing in your services. They make nowhere near what some of these big name websites are making by publishing gimmicky titled articles that are referenced rarely. 

That is my two cents for now 😁. Stay in love my friends ❤️. 

The Beef and Garlic Festival: Takko Town

Today I went to the Beef and Garlic Festival in Takko Town with a friend and my daughter. Nick is out of town for a few weeks and he was super bummed he was going to miss this one. Everyone I talked to raved about this particular festival. People claim it is their favorite festival. And trust me-there are A LOT of festivals around here! 

We bought tickets from the travel place on base. Your tickets gets you 7 oz of meat, vegetables, and a small container of sauce. They explained to us that once you get your meat there are grills set up that you then take your food to and cook on. 


We were told it would be about 1.5-2 hour drive and it seemed to go fast until we got close and we were stuck in traffic. The road leading up to the festival did have light poles that looked like garlic bulbs and that was pretty funny.


Sorry for by awful photo. I took it through the car window while we were waiting in traffic. 😂😂. 

As we wait in traffic the suspense was just building. I was so excited about this festival. I think that was probably the reason it bummed us out. We had heard SO many amazing things about this festival. And I just was not that impressed, unfortunately. I will say, the beef was very delicious. I just didn’t think the 7 oz of meat was worth the $19 for the ticket. There is also a bus that drives people there from the base and I can see how that might make it a little more fun because that would allow you to enjoy a large quantity of alcoholic beverages while you were at the festival. 


I did get to finally use Scarlett’s wagon for the purpose we bought it! 


These were the indoor grills out of the sun. 


These were all the outdoor grills and the white covering in the back was a pavilion that had a live band playing. 


We always see these chocolate covered bananas and I finally got one for Scarlett. She only wanted to play with the sprinkles on them! Once you cooked your food there was some limited seating but we brought a blanket to do it picnic style. 


One odd thing was everyone wanted to take a picture of Scarlett. She is a very shy kiddo so this was a little uncomfortable for her and she did not enjoy everyone staring at her. Below is how we cooked the meat. Overall, I just did not think it was worth the 4 hours in the car but I am so glad we went and experienced it. And I know I will continue going to these things because it is just a part of the whole living in Japan life! 

Traveling Japan: Sendai Edition 

For Labor Day we went on our first “big” trip since we have been in Japan. By “big” I mean overnighter, haha. We spent three days there. I don’t really know how to describe what Sendai would be. For my Indiana friends, it has a larger population than Indianapolis. California friends, it has a larger population than San Francisco. 

We had a lot of things “planned” to do. I looked up a lot of stuff. Let me start from the beginning though. This was the longest Scarlett had been in a car since we got here and she did awesome! We were curious about the toll roads and if there would be travel plazas like in the US. We stayed on the same road pretty much the entire time so the trip was quite easy. The tolls…oh man the tolls. This place is crazy. We paid about $75 one way for a 3.5 hour drive. It really racks up the cost of a trip fast if you don’t plan for it. And the travel plazas were awesome! Some even have children’s bathrooms. Adorable! 

One of the things we had heard about was the small hotel rooms and man they weren’t kidding. There was zero extra room once we set up Scarlett’s pack-n-play.


Notice the robes at the foot of the bed? Those are for the onsen in the hotel. However, this particular place had a no tattoo policy so we were not allowed to utilize it. 

Another very shocking thing (for us) was that for such a large city nothing opened early. Even Starbucks didn’t open until 8am. I have noticed this a lot. Most stores don’t open until 10am with a few opening at 9am. For early risers like us this was a bit awful. Even before we had our daughter we were 6-7am risers. Also, for a city this size there was nothing to do for small children to just burn off energy. We would look up parks and walk to them and the “park” would just be a dirt patch that may or may not have been grass at one time with a few benches. We found about 4 of those! And with the size of the hotel room it wasn’t like we could just go relax in the room between venturing out. 

We learned quickly we need to learn more Japanese, and quickly! In Misawa where the base is most places have menus in English. This was not the case. We honestly felt like we were being idiot tourists by not knowing more! 

We did go to an aquarium, did some shopping, saw some historic sites, and wrapped up the trip with some Japanese style pizza! I didn’t care for the pizza here at first but it is really starting to grow on me. One of the nice things (and one of the selling points on the visit for me) was the outlet malls with American size clothing. However I did notice an abundance of size XS and 0 pants. 


Train station map. Yikes! 


Aquarium.


Noodles!


Very small clothing…everywhere.


Anpanman Children’s Museum 


Oh the translations sometimes. Weird shirt! 


Pizza! 


Sendai Castle. 

Overall it was a great trip. We learned a lot and will definitely do better planning the next time we go somewhere. 

Keep an eye out for my next blog. Tomorrow I’m going to a beef and garlic festival! Yum! 

Staying Organized in Chaos

So life with a soon to be toddler offers a specific type of challenge. That challenge? Keeping up with any type of housework. I have actually always enjoyed cleaning and organizing my house but it is just not as easy to keep up with the little things anymore.

Even on the days I am not completely exhausted and feel like cleaning I would much rather be spending time with my maniac and having the small panic attacks as I actually help her destroy my house. When Nick is gone the task of keeping my house in reasonable standards because a whole new challenge. Thankfully I have a few tricks that have helped me greatly and I thought some of them may also help other moms struggling with keeping up with house chores.

I have two things I do concerning laundry that helps tremendously. Since most of the clothes my daughter wears, and honestly mine, are colors I immediately put all her clothes into the washer after I give her a bath. After a few days of this I will run the washer. I usually do one or two of these random loads of laundry a week. This also limits the amount of laundry I have piling up on the weekend. The next thing I do that is helpful is on Sunday and each time I do laundry I always sort her laundry into outfits and put it on the top of her shelf. Each morning all I need to do is grab an outfit off the top!

The next thing I do is pick up each night no matter what. This seems easy but let’s be honest, it is not. After getting drenched in water at bath time, kicked while putting pajamas on, and struggling for five minutes to brush a 22 month olds teeth, the only thing you want to do is leave that ball in the middle of the room, that sippy cup under the table, and the blocks right where they are. I mean, you can always get to them tomorrow, right? No. I always just pick up. I don’t necessarily organize anything. But books are back on the shelf, the DVDs that were ripped out of the TV stand are put back in the stand, and for goodness sake-put those blocks away because stepping on those things at 530am causing you to scream some choice words is just going to wake that maniac toddler up 30 minutes too early.

My next rule is the dishwasher. I cook most nights so it is usually full and I will it every night. Now if it is less than half full I won’t run it because I do like to attempt to conserve water when I can. Most nights though, I just run that thing through a wash!

The final thing I do to keep somewhat above water is one additional thing every other night or so. Today I vacuumed. Some nights I clean out the fridge of leftovers. It could be mop, or even clean the showers or toilets. Just one task that takes about 5-10 minutes. Because I can assure you 10 minutes during the week that adds up to eliminating an hour of my Saturday afternoon is completely worth it to me!

I will say, I understand I have one kiddo compared to some of your three. At this point, my daughter does not have homework or any extracurricular activities. However I do find the idea of just trying to one chore a night still reasonable and it really does help me with my husband being gone.

What do you do to keep your head above chores?